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The Power of Fellowshiping in the Sufferings of Jesus Christ

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But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.  - Philippians 3: 7-11 (NKJV)

Resurrection Sunday has come and gone again. We had our big dinner and seen distant family members. We have put away the special outfit we picked just for the occasion. Hopefully we heard a solid Bible based message about the resurrection when we went to church. For many, we can return to our regularly scheduled powerless walk. We can return to circling the same mountains we circled before this weekend. We can return to the same strongholds that tie us down. We can return to the same secret sin issues that are actually not a secret to God. 

It is difficult to blame us in modern Christianity. It is a powerless religiosity that is sold to us today. In the effort to be seeker friendly, all of the portions of the Gospel that contain true Godly power are stripped out. In an effort to appear more relevant to this lost, a great portion of the church itself has become lost - for the sacrifice made for relevance sake is power. It is relevance through impotence. But it was not meant to be this way. This is not the design of God. We were meant to walk with power. The power attained for us through the empty tomb. Not power as the world portrays it but rather how Paul explains it:

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  - Philippians 4: 11-13 (NKJV)

This is not about the physical ability to do anything we want. That is how the world views power. No beloved. This is about how to endure everything in this life in pure contentment. That is godly power! Instead of circling the mountain to cast it into the sea with a simple word. The key verses today give us some valuable insight from the Apostle Paul if we truly want to pursue resurrection power in our lives. If we want the power of contentment based not upon what we see but rather in whom we believe. It all starts with our value system. The things that I had considered gain I now count as loss for the sake of Christ. The things the world teaches as value we now need to count as garbage compared to the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus. Where the world teaches competitiveness we need to consider others as better than ourselves. Where the world values revenge we need to value forgiveness. Where the world values career we need to value the eternal things of heaven. It is not enough to merely disdain the things of this world beloved. We must consider them rubbish, trash, garbage. Why? So we will not hesitate to throw them out! We do not keep garbage lingering in our homes do we? Why? Because it is offensive to us. It holds no value to us. It is rubbish. The sad truth however is that often we do not treat worldliness and its lure as garbage. Like Lot before us, we pitch our tents towards Sodom and one day we wake up living in it. If we continue to attach even residual value we will not discard it. We will keep it around and consider it. We cannot do that and walk under the true power of God. Why? Because the world is diametrically opposed to God. 

Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.  - James 4: 4 (NKJV)

There are far to many flirtatious Christians. Dating God. Maybe even professing love for Him but keeping their options open. Their value system does not start with the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus. It does not start with being found in Him. Too many professing Christians are fond of Christ but not found in Him. There may be plenty of religion but no godly power. And that's OK to many. We get to play the pious part while dancing with the devil. We forget that when we dance with the devil, he always insists on leading. The key verses continue to explain to us why we value the world over Christ. It is because of the superficiality of our knowledge of Christ Jesus. We have been presented with an impotent Christ. A cardboard cutout of the real deal. One the looks nice on the surface, like in the recent Son of God movie, but empty and powerless on the inside. Plenty of sermons on His love but none on His wrath. Plenty of sermons on His provision but nothing about the cost we must pay. Plenty of singing and dancing about the victory but no examination of the sufferings. 

Oh Reverend, don't talk to me about sufferings! I just want to know how God is going to bless me! I just want to know how God is going to improve my lot in life. As Barnes Notes on the Bible puts it: 

"Many are willing to reign with Christ, but they would not be willing to suffer with him; many would be willing to wear a crown of glory like him, but not the crown of thorns; many would be willing to put on the robes of splendor which will be worn in heaven, but not the scarlet robe of contempt and mockery." 

So many today want the position without the sacrifice. Many want to be called apostles and prophets but do not want the true burden those offices hold. Many want the appearance of super-spirituality without the relationship with Christ that is required. Realize what Jesus went through beloved. Flogged with weapons designed to rip the skin off of your back. Thorns shoved into his head until the blood dripped into His eyes. His beard ripped out. Forced then to carry a cross weighing upwards of 100 pounds -- carrying the very instrument He knew would be used to kill Him. All the while suffering the taunts and mockery of those around Him. The very people He was dying for -- ridiculing Him as He marched to His death.  His friends and followers deserting Him.  Oh Reverend, don't talk to me about the blood! I want a soft and easy bloodless religion! Let's be honest with ourselves. We can get upset if someone is sitting in our regular pew spot! I know people who have left churches because their feelings were hurt! Barnes Notes continues: 

"To do this, is one evidence of piety; and we may ask ourselves, therefore, whether these are the feelings of our hearts. Are we seeking merely the honors of heaven, or should we esteem it a privilege to be reproached and reviled as Christ was - to have our names cast out as his was - to be made the object of sport and derision as he was - and to be held up to the contempt of a world as he was? If so, it is an evidence that we love him; if not so, and we are merely seeking the crown of glory, we should doubt whether we have ever known anything of the nature of true religion." 

Indeed, the nature of true religion must be based on relationship. That relationship must embrace both the good and the bad. That is why divorce rates are so high, even in the church. We have no problem with the positive but as soon as something comes against us we claim our differences have become irreconcilable. Nonsense! We simply choose to not endure the suffering. 

But not only are we to relate to His sufferings -- the key verse actually says we are to fellowship in the sharing of these sufferings. Fellowship intimates a much closer relationship then we are used to with suffering in this country. We are to be close and personal friends with the suffering of Jesus Christ -- not mere spectators. Not pay it lip service while we are passing the marshmallow peeps out. Close enough to smell the blood running down our back. Close enough to feel the thorns in our brow. We are not to intellectualize it. We are not to treat it as a story or a documentary. We are supposed to  fellowship  in it. We are to sit down with it and get to know it. We are to sup with it. Only then can we begin to get a true glimpse into the sacrifice God has made on our behalf which will unlock the power of His resurrection in our lives. I do not know how anyone can watch The Passion of the Christ and not weep uncontrollably. The graphic nature of the sufferings of Christ on display and yet experts on history say that Mel Gibson did not even come close to how bad it truly was. Yet we have people in the Church of Jesus Christ who see no problem in sharing the altar of a holy God who sent His only Son to go through this torture with pagan symbols , false gospels  and worldly excuses. The only logical rationale I can come up with is that we simply have not fellowshipped in the sharing of His sufferings. This is what Jesus meant by not being afraid of those who threaten you. I have fellowshipped in the sufferings of Jesus Christ! What can you possibly do to me? I now understand how Peter, who failed so miserably for so long was able to demand to be crucified upside down! 

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Credentialed Minister of the Gospel for the Assemblies of God. Owner and founder of 828 ministries. Vice President for Goodwill Industries. Always remember that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to (more...)
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